CITY HALL — The City Council's Black and Latino caucuses formed a united front Monday to cheer Mayor Rahm Emanuel's selection of Chicago Police Department veteran Eddie Johnson as the next superintendent.
"We needed a win-win candidate — anybody," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the Latino Caucus. "He fit the bill."
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said the Mayor's Office first informed him of the selection Saturday, and he immediately responded, "Wow, that's actually a great choice." Sawyer said he was familiar with Johnson as a former district commander in his ward. He called Johnson "a hard-nosed police officer" of "high integrity."
Reporter Ted Cox tries to explain how Mayor Emanuel is selecting the next top cop.
"It's the mayor's choice," Sawyer said. "He needs to have somebody he can feel comfortable with. It just so happens, for me personally, it's somebody I'm comfortable with."
Cardenas, too, endorsed Johnson, saying that "stems from the desire to see significant reforms to CPD culture and in the improvement of morale in the rank-and-file. We believe Johnson has proven his ability and will be ready to tackle the violence afflicting minority communities throughout Chicago." He said he expected Johnson to enhance Department transparency and morale.
Both sought to downplay reports of chaos in the selection process, saying they had no knowledge whether Emanuel had first offered the job to Georgia county public-safety director Cedric Alexander, a frequent cable-news commentator, only to pull it back.
Sawyer also waved off worries that Johnson, currently the chief of patrol, hadn't applied for the post because he didn't want it, saying, "The reluctant person usually is the one who's the best fit."
Sawyer said Deputy Police Supt. Eugene Williams, another of three finalists in the initial selection process, "originally had no interest in this job as well."
Cardenas referred to the selection of Johnson as the "silver lining" among those dark clouds.
Both applauded Johnson as a capable administrator familiar with the unique law-enforcement problems faced by Chicago.
"He's up for the task," Sawyer said. "He's willing to meet with any- and everybody."
Separately, Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), a former Chicago police officer and firefighter before being elected last year, also cheered the selection.
"As soon as it came out, my phone started blowing up with messages from officers who live in the 41st Ward who were excited and thrilled,” Napolitano said Monday. He added that their "stomachs were churning" at the thought of being led by another outsider unfamiliar with Chicago.
"The Department is prideful,” Napolitano said. “And the superintendent should be one of our own.
"Police officers are going to work hard for the new superintendent,” he added. "And they will be excited to be Chicago police officers again."
Cardenas and Sawyer met Saturday, they said, after both their caucuses had found fault with the selection process and the first three finalists.
"We talked about our common goals," Cardenas said, "really to serve the city."
"We came to a consensus that these were the types of qualities we wanted in a superintendent," Sawyer added — a capable, tough administrator who already knew the city and would work with aldermen and rank-and-file officers to revive the Department in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case, while standing up to the mayor.
When they heard, later that day, that Emanuel was rejecting that process and would seek to install Johnson into the post, both said they endorsed it.
Cardenas was frustrated that Supt. John Escalante had not been considered, but was ultimately happy with the selection of Johnson. He also expressed hope that Latinos would more readily rise through the ranks in the future. Latino aldermen, though, had said last week that Escalante should get the job.
"The process failed Escalante and it failed the Hispanic community," Cardenas said, "but that doesn't mean we can't move forward."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: